GBS Around the World

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Apr 07, 2021 · By LabReady Team
An estimated 1 in 5 pregnant women around the world carry group B Streptococcus (GBS), an average of 18%, which is a major source of infection for newborns. This percentage varies by country, up to 35% in the Caribbean.  

GBS bacteria live in the digestive system and/or lower vaginal tract of healthy adults, usually with no symptoms. It can be passed vertically from mother to child through amniotic fluid or through contact in birth canal during labor. 

Newborns struggle fighting off infection because of their immature immune systems. In this environment, GBS can multiply rapidly and cause serious illness:

  • Meningitis
  • Septicemia
  • Stillbirth or infant death
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Cerebral palsy

Currently, the best way to prevent infant GBS infection is by early testing and administering IV antibiotics to the mother during labor. This practice prevents approximately 29,000 cases of early-onset infection every year. Different countries around the world have different policies regarding testing and antibiotic use.   

  • 35 countries, including the US, test all pregnant women for GBS carriage
  • 25 countries, including the UK, only identify women with clinical risk factors
  • Other countries do not have explicit policies or procedures

Screening and treatment is more likely to occur in a high-income setting. GBS prevention is more difficult in low-income settings due to home births and limited laboratory capacity. Widespread antibiotic use is not regularly recommended in order to prevent the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

These factors demonstrate why GBS screening is so critical. Reliable and consistent GBS testing enables caregivers to identify when to treat with antibiotics and when not to use them, simultaneously preventing antibiotic resistance and saving infant lives. 

Group B Streptococcus infection causes an estimated 150,000 preventable stillbirths and infant deaths every year. Consistent GBS testing and early treatment globally is the key to preventing illness, even death, in newborns.

To speak with a LabReady Team Member about early GBS testing, click here:


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